Hike to Sjónarnípa

Added by Chris Mongeau

Distance: 8km (5 miles) roundtrip. Highest elevation: 370m (1200 ft). Incredible views of the glacier and volcanoes. Varied hiking intensity depending on your plans. Amazing waterfall views. Wide range of tundra flora and bird species through high meadow trails.

Skaftafell National Park is a portion of Vatnajökull National Park and easily accessible by car by Route 1 (the Ring Road). Sjónarnípa is a viewpoint overlooking the Skaftafell glacier and surrounding mountains. To hike to Sjónarnípa, begin at the Skaftafellsstofa (visitor center) and follow the blue trail leading towards Svartifoss. You can access Sjónarnípa by trails S5 and S6, but to do the entire loop up to Svartifoss and over to Sjónarnípa it only takes about 3 hours at a leisurely pace, and the views are worth the time.

Maps are located at the visitor center for about $3, but you really don't need one to do these hikes because the trails are marked very well and the signs are clear.

A little bit about the hiking trails in Skaftafell. In the Skaftafell area, there are a few types of hiking trails: blue (marked trail, easy), red (marked trail, challenging), and black dashed (difficult). Blue and red dashed trails are easy and challenging, respectively, but the dashes means the trails are not marked. To get to Sjónarnípa, you will need to hike on blue and red marked trails with a few steep grades on loose gravel.

To access Svartifoss, walk through the campground and follow the signs on the right up the mountain. The initial climb is about 1.5km (0.9 mi), and the trail will bring you to a wide open dirt area that overlooks Svartifoss straight ahead. Climb down the ravine trail to access the wooden bridge and amazing views of the waterfall.

After checking out Svartifoss, the easiest way to get to Sjónarnípa is to take the blue S6 trail towards Eystragil where it connects with the red S5 and S6 trails. From there, the signs lead you to Sjónarnípa. Along the trails, there are fields and fields of beautifully diverse tundra flora, and you may even be lucky enough to spot a reindeer.

The view of the glacier from Sjónarnípa is simply unbelievable, but if you're feeling up for it and have the time, you can continue on the S3 trail along the ridge to get varied perspectives on the glacial valley below.

To hike back down, bear towards your left as you're walking away from the Sjónarnípa viewpoint and follow the S5 trail straight to where the trail begins at the visitor center.

If you're doing this hike in the summer, temperatures can still dip below 40F degrees. In the winter and spring, all of these hikes become much more difficult as snow is on the ground or melting ice turns areas into mud.

For a winter hike to Svartifoss, check out this adventure.

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Rock Climbing
Easy Parking
Family Friendly


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Overall rating: 

over 4 years ago

Could Easily Be My Favorite Hike In Iceland

The hike was amazing - lots of people make the trek to see Svartifoss but few go beyond that for the longer hike. There were gorgeous views in all directions throughout which made it very enjoyable and the viewpoint at the top was great. The trail is easy to follow.

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